Moreover, how does the Government’s effective removal of democratically elected councils from the provision of education—which the councils have supported though not controlled, as the Government and media constantly assert, for many years—fit with the concept of devolution? If one is looking—as certainly Teesside and I suspect Manchester and other authorities are—to enhancing skills, extending links with further education and opening up employment opportunities to the next generation of young people, because the current generation has not had those opportunities, how can that possibly be reconciled with what is in effect a nationalisation of the education service and the exclusion of local government from it?

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What other incursions on local council responsibilities are being considered in the Treasury or other government departments which might extend to the new authorities and their members? Can the Government give any assurance that the new authorities will not go the way of metropolitan counties, which in many ways foreshadowed these new structures? Those were invented by a Conservative Government in 1973 and abolished, along with the GLA, by a Conservative Government 12 years later.

Finally, may I mount again a hobbyhorse that I confess to having ridden in a number of debates? Will the Government abandon remote control and engage effectively with the new combined authorities and other councils through the well-tried and successful mechanism of regional offices, engaging relevant departments and agencies at the local level? In fairness, this was a product of a previous Conservative Government. It worked very well, providing an invaluable two-way conduit between Whitehall and the locality. If that was good enough for Margaret Thatcher, it should surely be good enough for her successor.

Perhaps I may raise one other question, not directly in relation to Greater Manchester or Teesside but possibly to other areas which are considering a deal. There seems to be the opportunity, or temptation, for a backdoor reorganisation of local government to take place in areas where counties with shire district components may find themselves in a difficult position in relation to adjoining former metropolitan county areas. I cite for example the position in South Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, where for some purposes those district councils may become part of the combined authority, but not for others. However, once they start getting into the health and social care combination that is going to pose extreme difficulties, because social care is provided by the current shire counties. There is a suggestion in the air that the Government may be looking in this way to promulgate a further reorganisation of local government, creating more unitary authorities and changing the map completely. I do not know whether the Minister is in a position to comment about that today. If not, perhaps she can write to me. I beg to move the amendment.

Lord Shipley (LD): My Lords, first, I welcome the two orders, each at a different stage of the devolution process. I understand there will be a further order in respect of the Tees Valley later this year about a mayoral election next year.

I listened carefully to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and to his amendment to the Motion. It is true that the financial context is important. I also subscribe to his view that having some system of government offices linked particularly to combined authorities would be a hugely helpful conduit or communication channel.

However, I noticed three things that the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, missed out of his amendment. The first was the opportunities for councils through a combined authority structure to share services and thereby cut costs. Secondly, there are the opportunities for public service reform across all public services, which can be delivered only by closer co-operation across council boundaries. Thirdly, there are the

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opportunities to create strategic policy in areas such as transport and regeneration which transcend council boundaries and would give the combined authorities a role in devising what policy should be rather than waiting for Whitehall to start a process and attempt to define that policy.

I also accept the noble Lord’s comments on business rates, which need to be examined very closely. However, the implications of business rate devolution suggest that councils must come together geographically to make the best use of the powers that they will have, particularly to encourage business rate growth.

Greater Manchester has the benefit of having all three major parties involved in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and I pay tribute to its leadership, cross-party working and clear sense of what devolution could mean in terms of benefits for Greater Manchester as a whole. However, first, I have doubts about the following assertion, at the very end of the order:

“A full regulatory impact assessment has not been prepared as this instrument will have no impact on the costs of business and the voluntary sector”.

In fact it will have an impact because this order is about transferring police and crime commissioner functions to the elected mayor model, and there would be powers of precept and so on. If business rates are then to be set locally, there is a clear implication that there will be an impact.

2 pm

Secondly, I have serious doubts about the elected mayor model. It was the only offer the Government made to Greater Manchester, I understand, so the offer was accepted on that basis. We have doubts on these Benches about the elected mayor model, which I will come back to in a moment.

I pay tribute to Tees Valley’s clear ambition in the face of major challenges to its local economy, and to the willingness of those councils to pool expertise to drive strategic policy forward and to the excellent record of Tees Valley Unlimited, the local enterprise partnership. It is good to see the LEP working closely with the combined authority, and we wish the combined authority in Tees Valley every success when it comes into being in a few days’ time. The new structure will help to drive growth, and that sense of common purpose will be central to achieving it.

The Minister was right to say, in introducing this debate, that there is a common misunderstanding that devolution is an event rather than a process. It does not happen overnight, and as the Minister said, this is a milestone. It is a slow process, building trust geographically and between parties in the wider public interest. Greater Manchester serves as a model of how that can be achieved which should be copied by others.

The Minister will remember that during the passage of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, we made a number of comments on these Benches about government thinking on how to proceed with individual devolution deals. We expressed concerns about the elected mayor model—the extensive powers, the large geographical area they might cover and the impossibly large number of functions they might be asked to undertake—and concluded that, in the guise of devolution, we actually had a centralist model that

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would find it difficult to engage with the general public and with local councils. We accepted that to be legitimate, combined authorities had to have some form of direct election which would give a mandate to the chair of the combined authority from the ballot box. At present, the public and councils are too remote from the workings of combined authorities, and to have the leader or chair of the combined authority structure simply nominated behind closed doors from among a group of council leaders seemed to us not to satisfy the public interest test.

We expressed concerns about the creation, too, of a one-party state and about the need for better scrutiny and audit. I am pleased to see that there are now plans to improve the level of scrutiny and audit that is taking place in combined authorities, although we still prefer a form of direct election to combined authorities using proportional representation. My noble friend Lord Tyler and I tabled an amendment in Committee that would have provided a means of doing that so that more than one person would be directly elected to the combined authority. However, at that stage, there was not support across the House so the matter did not proceed.

I remain of the view that the structures being put in place will be tested. For this elected mayor model to succeed, there has to be trust and shared objectives in the wider public interest. As the Minister says, it is not compulsory to have devolution, but as we devolve, we must be really careful that we are not centralising, whether through the elected mayor model or through the model of the regional schools commissioner, whereby all schools, if they become academies, will be taken completely out of local authority control. The Minister might wish to respond to the idea that the regional schools commissioners could be made democratically accountable to the combined authorities. If that is to be the case, or if there is thinking in that respect, it would be helpful to know more.

This is all about a process and leadership. In the end, as we said in passing the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act, this process needs all-party consent to work but is ultimately in the interests of England, our level of growth and the general well-being of our economy.

Viscount Eccles (Con): My Lords, I make a short intervention to welcome the Tees Valley order. I first went to work in Stockton-on-Tees over 60 years ago and have lived in the north-east of England ever since. I noted that the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, constantly referred to Teesside. He is absolutely right to do so, and I hope none of your Lordships who go to the north-east and visit the area from Darlington down to Middlesbrough expect to be in a valley. It is not a valley: the Tees falls under 200 feet from Darlington, which is about 20 miles inland, to the mouth at Middlesbrough and Hartlepool. I very much hope that one day the mayor, whose creation I fully support, will promote a change back to the name of Teesside instead of the mistaken appellation of “Valley”.

I have one other regret, which is that County Durham has gone north instead of staying where it should be. My 60-something years there tells me that the three places named in the order—Darlington, Hartlepool

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and Stockton-on-Tees—always look towards the city of Durham. Indeed, Durham University is now split because there is a college in Stockton which is part of the university. This is a matter of regret because there is a big problem with identities in what I call Teesside. The history and the identities of Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Stockton particularly are very different. Middlesbrough was, in 1820, a hermit’s chapel on the banks of the Tees: there was nothing else there at all at that time other than a ring of villages down to the south. Beyond Stockton-on-Tees, the tidal river goes up to Yarm, the heart of the wool trade, and so on. I will not go on about this, but the historic identities of these five places are very different from each other. That will present a huge challenge to the mayor in terms of how to provide the leadership to bring this combined authority together.

Ab initio, I worked in Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Stockton, to name but three places. I remember somebody called Darlington Jack, who was a very good worker and worked in Stockton-on-Tees at the same place as me. The Stockton-on-Tees lads came to me one day and said, “I think it’s time you got rid of Darlington Jack, he doesn’t come from here”. I hope that this authority is a great success, but it will be a tremendous challenge to the mayor and his staff to create the identity that means it will really pull together.

Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top (Lab): My Lords, I, too, intervene mainly on the Tees Valley order. I have great sympathy with what the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said. I note that he talked about coming from the north-east. A real problem in all of this is that the previous Secretary of State did not want to hear the words “regions” and banned it for a while. Nobody was allowed to mention a region. In doing so, he broke up the north-east.

That leaves us with significant problems. One problem in the Tees Valley area is that there is one police authority and one fire authority for some of the Tees Valley, but Darlington comes within the Durham and Darlington fire authority and the Durham and Darlington police authority. This will present Tees Valley—and, I suggest, the Government—with a little bit of trouble, because there will be one mayor and one police commissioner not covering the whole of the area. There is a split there that I do not think the Government have worked through. They have brought it upon themselves by the daft things that were done in getting rid of the regional development agency in the north-east. But there you go—history often comes back to bite us.

The Tees Valley order is essentially about how to get a greater economic drive in that area. Of course, we and the local authorities in that area fully support that. There is huge ambition, but there are huge challenges. On its own the closure of the steelworks means that there will be at least £10 million less per year coming into the local authority from business rates, let alone all the other economic challenges from the closure of the steelworks. The financial settlement that goes with the combined authority deal simply does not address the enormous challenges.

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Another challenge that is not mentioned in the order, but certainly if Tees Valley goes the way of Greater Manchester it will become an issue, is that there is a large workforce in the Tees Valley area involved in social care. I confess that I have not yet been around all the authorities, but in either the north-east or the Tees Valley area I have not yet come across a local authority for which the amount it will be allowed to raise through the 2% additional levy on council tax will even cover the increase in the minimum/living wage. The amount that those authorities will be able to take in will be much less than in other authorities, such as Surrey, because they have more houses in the lowest council tax bands. They will be able to raise less, but the north-east and the Tees Valley also have the highest proportion of people needing social care who are entitled to public funding. When you put those two things together, there is a catastrophe waiting to happen. I have been asking the Department of Health what the way forward is on this, because the authorities will not be able to raise the money to meet the costs. As a very quick example, Surrey, which will be able to raise a lot through the 2%, has 1% of its elderly care population dependent on public funding. In Newcastle, more than 80% is dependent on public funding; as I said, it is unable to raise even what the rise in the minimum wage will cost this year.

These are incredible challenges. The Government have not addressed them and just keep saying, “It’s up to local authorities”. Local authorities are not miracle workers. The people in the north-east deserve better. The Government need to put their attention to this—I think their collective attention, because when I have talked to different people in government they do not know that this is going on and that this is likely to be an effect. They have not thought about it. I plead with the Minister: we are all in favour of more devolution and of the combined authority concept, but that has to be done in a way that does not disadvantage the people of these areas even more. At the moment, government policy—I am quite prepared to accept by mistake—will make their task virtually impossible. That is not fair. When the Minister talks about fair funding, she needs to think of these other things, which will really have an impact on Tees Valley’s ability to get the economic drive that it is working so hard to see.

2.15 pm

Lord Beith (LD): My Lords, I join my noble friend Lord Shipley in welcoming the Tees Valley order. I sympathise with those who prefer to call it Teesside as well. I note in particular that Liberal Democrat councillors and party chairmen in the Tees area have firmly and publicly stated how much they want to work together with others to make a success of the combined authority and associated arrangements.

I also say in passing that I share the view expressed in several quarters that making an elected mayor a condition of deals of this kind is a very unreasonable position for the Government to adopt. I say that when I look at what would happen if we had to have an elected mayor covering an area from Berwick to Sunderland—an area of very diverse differences. It would be a very inappropriate governance arrangement.

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I turn to the Greater Manchester order because of a little-mentioned positive aspect of it, but I am not clear how far it goes. It is what was referred to at paragraph 1.279 of the Budget statement, on criminal justice:

“The government has also agreed a further devolution deal with Greater Manchester, including a commitment to work towards the devolution of criminal justice powers”.

That is rather weak wording: “to work towards” is what Governments sometimes say when they are making concessions and are in difficulty. I do not think that that is the origin in this case. As far as I am aware, there is a genuine government commitment to achieve some devolution of criminal justice powers. Will the Minister, in responding to the debate, say just a little more? It was barely mentioned at the opening. It is a new development and unique to the Greater Manchester deal.

There is tremendous scope to be had from developments of this kind because at the moment we have a distortion in our system that means that, whereas the prison system is funded nationally, all other disposals arising from sentences tend to depend on local funding and extremely variable local provision of services for alcohol addiction, drug addiction and so forth. Greater Manchester is one of the areas that has tried to grapple with some of this. When, in my former capacity as chairman of the Justice Committee, we visited Stockport, we found there determined co-operation between magistrates, the local authority and the probation service, the development of something more like the problem-solving court, and the bringing together of various public bodies to deal with the problems that a case identifies that could lead to the ending of a pattern of offending behaviour. That requires a lot of co-operation between different bodies. Similarly, making logical use of alternatives to custody in sentencing depends on having a financial structure in which the commissioning is not done by completely different bodies.

There is a lot of scope here, and there will be even more scope if national spending on criminal justice is increasingly devolved to local areas. If that is done, we have a much better chance of ending up spending money on preventing crime, rather than on keeping people in prison for crimes that should never have happened. I see this as potentially important, and not something that we should allow to be forgotten in the Greater Manchester deal.

Lord Grocott (Lab): My Lords, I agree with pretty well everyone who has spoken, particularly my noble friend Lady Armstrong. Everyone was in favour of devolution and of decisions being made as locally as possible. I wish there was a bit more of that thinking in the Government as far as education is concerned, but I suppose there are inconsistencies in all government policies. I still feel a sense of foreboding about these orders and they are not entirely removed by my noble friend’s amendments, although I think it is infinitely desirable for the amendments to be carried.

The foreboding comes, at least in part, from the sense that we are developing in an almost ad-hoc way. I do not want to use the word “hotchpotch”, but it is the nearest thing to the truth. We will have different forms of local government in different parts of what

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is still, certainly geographically, quite a small and homogeneous country. We will soon reach the stage when a member of the public will need a doctorate in public administration to know what kind of system they live in, who does what, where and how, when to vote and all the rest. That will particularly be the case when people move around the country, as they do, of course, from one part to another. I do not think that it is the only principle governing constitutional change, but I think that intelligibility should be one of the principles.

We are in increasing danger, as these orders come through, of forgetting that principle and making a very complicated system of local and regional government public administration. I say that despite the fact— I am very conscious of the fact—that some people I admire enormously in local government, friends of mine, have been involved in the various negotiations and the conclusions that have been reached. It is something that should cause us concern. We should at least keep a watchful eye on how these things are developing.

I confess to a prejudice in all this, in that I think one should always be a little wary of Chancellors who say they are here to help. Chancellors of the Exchequer have a fair bit of power and a fair bit of money at their disposal. It is never quite an equal discussion when they come and negotiate with local leaders, who have tremendous knowledge of their area but nothing like the same capacity to implement decisions for their area that people in national government quite rightly have.

However, my main concern with these changes remains, as it was when we were taking the Bill through, about this business of directly elected mayors being compulsory. Let us not throw weasel words around any more. I do not like using language like that, but it is using weasel words to say that this is an optional addition to devolution agreements—that it is optional as to whether you have a mayor or not. It is not. It is quite clearly an absolute requirement for the Chancellor. It is something that should not just pass in an order without us at least registering our concerns, as others have.

I will not repeat things I said during the passage of the parent legislation, but I did not expect that on the leader page of the Daily Telegraph I would find an article by a Conservative writer with whom I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly. The headline in last Friday’s Daily Telegraph was: “Voters don’t want them, but the march of the mayors is now unstoppable”. It is not me saying this, though I find a great affinity with it. The article says that four years ago:

“George Osborne … asked 10 cities, in a referendum, if they’d like a directly-elected mayor. Nine said “no”. It was the wrong answer … It’s hard not to admire his audacity. Soon, all nine of the cities which rejected the offer of a mayor in a referendum will have one anyway”.

We know the history of this. It was introduced by a Labour Government, I acknowledge that, but then the impetus for an elected mayor had to come from below. Then the Conservative Government said, “Well, this isn’t moving fast enough, so we are going to force these 10 local authorities to consult the people”. They did consult the people and the people said, “No, thank you very much, we do not want one”. So what do the

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Government do? In the finest traditions of the European Union, I have to say, if you do not like the first result you have another go until the electorate come to their senses. That is essentially what has happened. Fraser Nelson goes on to say:

“Since 2001, there have been 50 mayoral referendums, of which just 15 agreed to mayors. Many have come to regret it”.

We know two, of course, where there has been a vote to get rid of it.

I know that it is whistling in the wind now to say this, but we are setting up a quasi-presidential system as a model across the country. This is not yet at a national level, thankfully—because I think that a parliamentary system is infinitely preferable—but that is what is going to happen. It will inevitably mean different systems in different parts of the country. We are still in the very unfortunate situation, as far as I can see, unless the Minister can correct me on this, where unlike in any quasi-presidential system anywhere in the world there is no limit on the number of terms a mayor can serve. That is a great fault in the system. Parliamentary systems get rid of leaders when they are not keen on them, but mayoral systems do not have that mechanism. I should have thought that eight years—two terms—should be a maximum, but that safeguard does not exist.

I have no sense of joy and exhilaration at a wonderful new experiment. I do not think that that was detected in any of the three Front-Bench speeches; I may be misinterpreting them. I hope that as this process continues—it now seems inexorable—care will be exercised to ensure that we do not develop a system of devolution across our relatively small country which no one without a double doctorate can understand.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I shall open my remarks by reflecting the words of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, about the process of devolution being iterative and evolutionary over time. Those were very sensible words. I shall address some of the issues that were brought up that I did not address in my opening remarks.

Several points were made about referendums for different types of mayors being held under different processes. It is probably quite important to distinguish between the different provisions at different times. It is quite misleading to link referendums about whether there should be an elected mayor for a local authority area and the proposed combined authority mayors. The latter mayors are very different from local authority mayors—that is probably one reason Greater Manchester saw fit to have one. They have wholly different and novel roles and are closely interconnected with the devolution of new, wide-ranging powers for areas.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, asked how much agreement there was from other departments in doing these deals and implementing them. The departments concerned have all signed off the deals, which have been collectively agreed by Ministers. The implementation process is both local and across Whitehall, led by a director-general and a cross-Whitehall group involving all departments involved in the specific deals.

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The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, asked about impact assessments. I hope it comforts him that when we confer functions on the combined authority to be exercised by the mayor, there will be, where appropriate, a regulatory impact assessment. This will be done in future orders that will be considered by this House.

The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, talked about Durham moving north, which was interesting, and the identity in Teesside. The naming of the combined authority was a matter for the local area. The Government have recognised the historic boundaries but this combined authority is about strengthened, joined-up working and building on strong relationships across boundaries, recognising local identities.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, talked about the certainty of funding, particularly in relation to HS3. The Government have committed to HS3 and the Chancellor announced in last week’s Budget that £60 million will be available to bring forward HS3 between Leeds and Manchester, reducing journey times towards 30 minutes, which will increase the jobs market for people in both Leeds and Manchester and improve links between the north’s other major cities. The Government are absolutely committed to this.

2.30 pm

The noble Lord, Lord Grocott, brought up term limits. We do not have term limits for mayors, just as we do not have them for local authority leaders. It is for the electorate to decide whether or not a person should be re-elected.

The noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, talked about police and fire authority boundaries. It is not planned at this stage that the mayor in Tees Valley will be a police and crime commissioner.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, talked about the financial cuts to local authorities. The Government have responded to councils and provided longer-term certainty about funding availability in the four-year settlements. He also talked about business rate relief—again—and I am now in a position to be able to answer the question, which slightly caught me on the hop last time. Councils will be protected from the impact. Specifically, local government will be compensated for the loss of income as a result of the business rate measures announced in the Budget, and it will be full compensation, as it has been for the past few years.

The noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, talked about social care pressures. Following consultation, the Government are making up to £3.5 billion available by 2019-20 to recognise the priority and growing cost of caring for the elderly. I know the point that the noble Baroness is mouthing at me but I am just making the point that we have made that funding available.

The noble Lord, Lord Beith, talked about more criminal justice devolution in the GM deal. It is at a very early stage and, as agreed last week, for the first time Greater Manchester will have a greater role in the commissioning of offender management services and the Government will engage with Greater Manchester Combined Authority on its agenda to create a modern prison estate—more details to follow.

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In conclusion, these are important orders to progress the devolution to all areas that all sides of the House support.

Lord Beecham: My Lords, I do not propose to test the opinion of the House. We have had an interesting debate, which will continue for some time. I will look very carefully at what the Minister said about the business rate element, and other matters as well. No doubt we shall return to these issues because presumably there will be a string of orders over the next few months. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment to the Motion.

Amendment to the Motion withdrawn.

Motion agreed.

Tees Valley Combined Authority Order 2016

Motion to Approve

2.34 pm

Moved by Baroness Williams of Trafford

That the draft order laid before the House on 11 February be approved.

Relevant document: 27th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Amendment to the Motion

Tabled by Lord Beecham

As an amendment to the above motion, at end insert “and that this House welcomes the principle of devolution, the Tees Valley Combined Authority agreement, and the draft Order; but regrets the lack of adequate resources allocated to the Tees Valley Combined Authority; is concerned that funding is being cut whilst essential services are being devolved; notes that a transitional grant is available to local authorities to ease the pace of funding reductions but that out of the five constituent member local authorities of the Tees Valley Combined Authority no local authorities will receive this funding; and regrets that the Agreement was conditional on having an elected Mayor”.

Amendment to the Motion not moved.

Motion agreed.

Brussels Terrorist Attacks


2.34 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con):My Lords, with permission, I will repeat a Statement made earlier today by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in the House of Commons. The Statement is as follows:

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“Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about the terrorist attacks in Brussels, our response, and the threat we face from terrorism in the United Kingdom.

The cold-blooded attacks in Brussels yesterday morning have shocked and sickened people around the world; 14 people were murdered and 106 wounded when two bombs exploded at Brussels Airport. A further attack at Maalbeek metro station an hour later killed 20 people and wounded more than 100 others. Four British nationals are among the injured and we are concerned about one missing British national. Their families have been informed and they are receiving regular consular assistance. We are working urgently to confirm if any other British nationals have been caught up in these attacks. The investigation into the attacks is still ongoing. These figures may change and it will take some time for a fuller picture to emerge. But we know that Daesh has claimed responsibility.

These were ordinary people simply going about their daily lives: families going on holiday, tourists visiting the city and workers making their way to their offices. They have been attacked in the most brutal and cowardly way. I am sure the whole House will want to join me in sending our thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families and those who have been affected by these events.

In Belgium the authorities have increased the country’s terrorist threat level to four, the highest level available, meaning that the threat is serious and imminent. Yesterday I spoke to my Belgian counterpart, Jan Jambon, to offer my condolences and to make it clear that the UK stands ready to provide any support that is needed. Belgium is a friend and an ally, and we work closely together on security matters. Following the attacks in Paris last November, we deployed police and intelligence services resources to Belgium to support the ensuing investigation, which last week resulted in the arrest of Salah Abdeslam.

This is the 14th attack in Europe since the start of 2015. In January last year, gunmen killed 17 people at the office of Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris. In February, two people were shot dead at a synagogue and café in Copenhagen. In August, an attack was prevented on a Thalys train en route to Paris. In November, 130 people were killed and many more injured in a series of co-ordinated attacks in Paris. There have been further attacks in other parts of the world, including Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Egypt and Tunisia—where 30 British holidaymakers were murdered. More recently, a suicide bomber killed at least five people and injured more than 30 in an attack in the heart of Istanbul.

There continues to be a threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism. The murder of prison officer Adrian Ismay on 15 March was a stark reminder of the many forms of terrorism we face.

In the UK the threat from international terrorism, which is determined by the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, remains at severe, meaning that an attack is highly likely. In the past 18 months, the police and the security services have disrupted seven terrorist plots to attack the UK. All were either linked to or inspired by Daesh and its propaganda. We know also

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that Daesh has a dedicated external operations structure in Syria which is planning mass-casualty attacks around the world.

Following yesterday’s attacks in Belgium, the Government took precautionary steps to maintain the security of people in this country. This morning the Prime Minister chaired a second meeting of COBRA, where we reviewed those measures and the support we are offering to our partners in Europe.

Border Force has intensified checks at our border controls in Belgium and France, increased the number of officers present at ports and introduced enhanced searching of inbound tourist vehicles. Further measures include security checks on some flights and specialist search dogs at certain ports. The police also took the decision to increase their presence at specific locations, including transport hubs, to protect the public and provide reassurance. In London, the Metropolitan Police has deployed additional officers on the transport network. I can, however, tell the House that neither deployment is in response to specific intelligence.

As I have informed the House on previous occasions, since 2010 the Government have undertaken significant work to bolster our response to the threats we face from terrorism. Last year the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act provided new powers to deal specifically with the problem of foreign fighters and prevent radicalisation. We extended our ability to refuse airlines the authority to carry people to the UK who pose a risk. We also introduced a new power temporarily to seize the passports of those suspected of travelling to engage in terrorism. This power has now been used more than 20 times, and in some cases has led to longer-term disruptive action, such as use of the royal prerogative to permanently cancel a British passport. A week ago this House debated the Second Reading of the Investigatory Powers Bill, which will ensure that the police and the security and intelligence agencies have the powers they need to keep people safe in a digital age.

Through our Prevent and intervention programmes we are working to safeguard people at risk and challenge the twisted narratives that support terrorism. This includes working with community groups to provide support to vulnerable groups and deliver counternarrative campaigns. Our Channel programme works with vulnerable people and provides them with support, to lead them away from radicalisation. Furthermore, as we announced as part of the strategic defence and security review in November last year, this year we will be updating our counterterrorism strategy, Contest.

In addition, we have protected the counterterrorism policing budget. Over the next five years we will invest £2.5 billion in a bigger, more capable global security and intelligence network. This will include employing over 1,900 additional staff at MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, and strengthening our network of counterterrorism experts in the Middle East, north Africa, south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Together, these measures amount to a significant strengthening of our domestic response. But as the threat continues to adapt and morph, we must build on our joint work with our international partners.

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As this House is aware, the UK enjoys the longest-lasting security relationship in the world, through the “Five Eyes” partnership with our allies the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. That relationship allows us to share information, best practice and vital intelligence to disrupt terrorist activity, prevent the movement of foreign fighters and stop messages of hate spreading.

Following the attacks in Paris last November, our security and intelligence agencies have strengthened co-operation with their counterparts across Europe, including through the Counter-Terrorism Group, which brings together the heads of all domestic intelligence agencies of EU member states, Norway and Switzerland. Through this forum, the UK has been working to improve co-operation and co-ordination in response to the terrorist threat, and to exchange operational intelligence.

We are also working bilaterally to increase aviation security in third countries, because, as I told the five-country ministerial meeting in February, defeating terrorism requires a global response and we will not succeed by acting in isolation. The United Kingdom has intelligence and security services that are the envy of the world, and some of the most enduring international security relationships. Together with our allies around the world, we must act with greater urgency and resolve than ever before. We must continue, as we already do, to share intelligence with our partners, to be proactive in offering our expertise to help others, and to encourage them to do likewise. We must organise our own efforts more effectively to support vulnerable states and improve their ability to respond to the threat from terrorism. We must also do more to counter the poisonous and repugnant narrative peddled by Daesh and expose it for what it is—a perversion of Islam built on fear and lies.

This is the third Statement to the House that I have given following a terrorist attack in just over a year. Each horrendous attack brings pain and suffering to the victims and their loved ones. Each time the terrorists attack, they mean to divide us. But each time they fail”.

2.43 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in the House of Commons earlier today. We share fully the abhorrence and condemnation expressed in the Statement about the attacks in Brussels yesterday, which were in reality yet another attack on all Europe. We support the Government in confronting this threat. Our thoughts are very much with the families of those killed and of the missing British person, with those injured and their families, and with the people of Brussels and Belgium—and indeed the people of Ankara and Istanbul, who have also been the subject of attacks in recent days.

I have a few questions and points to raise. Can the Minister say what guidance is being offered to our citizens who were intending to travel to or through Brussels over the holiday period in particular? Can he say more about the collaboration that is taking place with Belgium and other European partners, including the support or expertise that had already been given or

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offered to Belgium prior to this attack? If ever the case still needed to be made for closer working and collaboration and sharing of intelligence to combat these acts of terrorism, this is it.

On the issue of border security, we welcome the steps that have been taken to step up checks at our air, sea and rail borders with Belgium and France, and security on our own transport network. Are all passports now being checked on exit from the UK, as the Government said they would be by the end of last year, and were 100% passport checks in place between the UK and Belgium in advance of yesterday’s attacks?

Border Force operates juxtaposed controls at, I believe, six locations in France, covering ferry services, the Channel Tunnel and Eurostar. As I understand it, however, in respect of Belgium juxtaposed controls cover only Eurostar foot passengers and not ferry terminals. Is that the case and if so, will there be a review of our borders with Belgium with a view to strengthening them?

Further cuts are coming following the spending review. The Border Force has faced years of cuts and is already stretched. Are further cuts to the force going to be made in 2016-17? Surely now is the time to strengthen our borders, not to go in the reverse direction.

We know that a number of terror plots have been foiled in the past year and we take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all those in the police and security services who work so determinedly to keep us safe. The public, however, will want reassurance about our ability to thwart a Paris or Brussels-style attack. We know about plans to improve firearms capability in London but there is concern about the ability of cities outside London to cope. Last year a Home Office report on police firearms capability found that the number of armed officers had fallen by 15% since 2008, including a fall of 27% in Greater Manchester and 25% in Merseyside. Have the Government reviewed the ability of all major cities to respond, and can they provide reassurance that, if there were a Paris or Brussels-style attack outside London, our police and fire services would have the necessary capability to respond?

In his statement on the strategic defence and security review, the Prime Minister promised a new contingency plan to deal with major terrorist attacks, with up to 10,000 military personnel available to support the police. Can the Minister update the House on those plans and say when the full 10,000 military personnel will be trained and in place?

We know that at moments like this, great anxiety will be felt in the British Muslim community over fears of reprisal attacks and hate crime as a result of the acts of terrorism in Brussels—which are simply that, and a perversion of Islam. Do the Government recognise that concern, and will they send an unequivocal message that anyone who seeks to promote division or hate on the back of these attacks will be dealt with severely?

Will the Government also condemn the ill-informed comments from Donald Trump on UK television today and take this opportunity to distance the Government from them? Mr Trump appears to have suggested that Muslims do not come forward to report concerns in

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order to assist our security authorities in combating potential acts of terrorism. Generalised slurs, from whatever source, on all Muslim people, who have the same revulsion over what happened yesterday as everyone else, serve only to drive a wedge between the Muslim community and the rest of our diverse country. This is a time for maximum unity among people of all faiths—and none—in rejecting those who preach extremism. We stand together as a united country, and we stand with our neighbour Belgium in its time of need, determined that whatever it takes, and however long it takes, we will face and defeat this threat to our way of life together.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, if I may start on a personal note, while watching the television report on the Istanbul attack I noticed that it took place only a few days after I had walked down that street between meetings in Istanbul. To see the pictures of Brussels, where my wife was walking through the site the day before this happened, is to make one feel that we are not cut off from all this. This is part of our world. I find it despicable that the Brexit campaign should have tried to suggest that we could cut ourselves off from the world and that what happens 100 miles away from London, in Brussels, is no concern of ours. This was, after all, an attack by Belgian citizens in Belgium. We should recall from the IRA campaign in Britain that what was in many ways a domestic terrorist campaign also included cells and co-operation in Spain, Gibraltar, France, Belgium and Libya and that, in dealing with a series of global terrorist threats, we are forced to co-operate with others as closely as we can.

Perhaps the Minister would care to confirm this: if we were to try to secure our borders completely, we would have to return to the sort of controls that we had in the 1960s. I first began to travel between Britain and France then; all bags were opened and it often took 10 to 15 minutes for each person to go through passport control. Given the enormous increase in cross-border travel between Britain and the continent, it would be a severe disincentive to all our citizens—and, incidentally, an intense inconvenience to the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, in travelling each week between his home in France and the House of Lords. It would also be very difficult given the large Middle Eastern presence we now have, particularly in London. There are not just people from the Middle East working here and living as refugees but rich Arabs from countries from which money flows, unfortunately, to mosques and madrassahs in Britain to support a radical version of Islam. We all have to be deeply concerned about that.

I second everything that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said about visible co-operation and contact with our Muslim community. I was extremely proud to take part in a service in Westminster Abbey some months ago in which an Imam read from the Koran, as a representative of one of Britain’s faiths in one of our national Christian institutions. I suggest to the Government that they need to do more in demonstrating how far we accept British Muslims as part of the British community, and the moderate version of Islam as the appropriate representation of their faith.

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Can the Minister say a little about the importance of the Prüm convention and British participation in it, in terms of the rapid exchange of information among different services across Europe on suspected terrorists and others? I noted the reference to the counterterrorism group in the Statement which, as the Statement recognises, brings Britain together with other EU members and with Norway and Switzerland, as all are concerned with this. Can he say a little about further moves that we think may be necessary towards the closer exchange of intelligence, information and co-operation among national police and security agencies with our neighbours, all of whom are also members of the European Union?

Lord Bates: I thank both noble Lords for their remarks and I agree very much with their points and observations. Let me start with that point about the Muslim community. Following the experience of previous attacks, we have sadly seen an increase in Islamophobic-style attacks around our country. One of the things which we put in place to retain confidence, as part of the counterextremism strategy, was to ensure that the police are visible in those areas and offering some protection and reassurance, particularly at sensitive spots within those communities.

I also make it clear to those overseas in the United States who wish to intervene in our affairs that in this area, as in many others, a little knowledge would be helpful because the police have gone straight on the record to point out that in so many of the cases which we have had success in disrupting, the intelligence and information has very much come from within that community. It is an absolute partnership—an essential partnership—that we have with that community and anything which drives a wedge between it and the wider community in the UK will serve only to weaken our security. We do not want that to happen. I know that my noble friend and ministerial colleague Lord Ahmad, who leads on the counterextremism area and sits in the Home Office and in the Department for Transport, is working on a daily basis in that respect.

Let me go through some of the points which were raised, in order if I can. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about the travel advice. It has already been updated for Belgium and while it does not advise against travel, it is stressing the importance of maintaining vigilance in that area. We will continue to keep that under review and change it if necessary.

On broadening the number of locations, these special juxtaposed controls which we have are of course a tremendous part of our defence. The Channel is an important part of our defence but the juxtaposed controls are a crucial part of our security at our borders. The Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, has had meetings with his Belgian and Dutch counterparts about the possibility of strengthening relationships, particularly at some of the ferry terminals, in the light of intelligence. We hope to have more to say on that in future.

In relation to the Border Force, I know that the story is in a sense running because we have not yet announced the final budget for that. We will need to come forward with that very quickly indeed. But I hope that all noble Lords will be reassured that when

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we have talked about putting an extra £2.5 billion into the intelligence and security apparatus and recruiting another 1,900 people to the security services, and when we have protected in real terms the police and security budgets and announced uplifts for firearms, we are not going to do anything which would do other than strengthen these crucial front-line capabilities in the face of the threats that we receive.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, asked about Prüm. We did opt in to Prüm, which again is an important part of our co-operation with our European colleagues in this area. We have so many areas in which we co-operate with them, such as on criminal information networks and in Schengen information sharing. Prüm was very important because it has those elements of sharing data on DNA, on vehicle licensing and on fingerprints. We have signed up to those elements and they will be ready in 2017-18. Without tempting members of the Home Affairs Sub-Committee of the European Union Select Committee, if it is represented here, to leap to their feet the committee wrote a strong report saying that we need to go further and faster on that. In fact we organised a meeting with the very people who are introducing this at the Home Office, from a technological point of view. They have promised to come back with regular updates for the House on how we are doing.

I was asked what more could be done through counterterrorism. There are some items on the agenda. The Home Secretary has said that it is very important that we have passenger name records, not just for flights from outside the EU area but within it. It is vital that that happens; it was supposed to be on the agenda of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, which was to meet this week. Understandably, it has either been pushed back or, potentially, postponed. I thank noble Lords for the concerns in their questions.

2.59 pm

Lord Lawson of Blaby (Con): My Lords, I welcome the Statement, particularly its emphasis on the fact that this is a global threat that we are all facing, which requires a global response—not least in the form of intelligence sharing. In that context, I was glad that the Statement explicitly referred to the vitally important and long-standing Five Eyes agreement with the United States and three other non-European countries, and to the European counterterrorism group, which again includes countries which are members of the European Union and countries which are not. Bearing all this in mind, does my noble friend not agree that for anybody to suggest that our security and co-operation would be at risk were the British people to choose to leave the European Union is baseless scaremongering and to be deplored?

Lord Bates: My noble friend is absolutely right to point out that the United Kingdom has a unique set of international relationships, whether through its position on the Security Council, in the Commonwealth or in the “Five Eyes” that I have talked about. A crucial part of these relationships is of course with Europe. The sharing of information within Europe must go on. It is absolutely integral to our ongoing security.

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We are not, for example, part of the Schengen area, but that does not stop our signing up for the Schengen information system and these are crucial data for us. It is important that we maintain the strongest possible links because this is a global problem and it requires us all to work together internationally and within this country.

Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab): My Lords, first, I express my condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives and to those who have been injured. Would the Minister reconfirm that the threat to this country remains at the severe level and it is highly likely that there will be a terrorist attack at some stage? In that context, is it not the case that our support and assistance to Belgium—or others who find themselves the victims of these tragedies—is not just a moral and political obligation, but self-interest, since we may wish to see it reciprocated at some stage?

Secondly, on information sharing, can the Minister comment on Europol? Only two months ago, the head of Europol suggested that, although there were 5,000 returnees from Syria to Europe, they had received details on only 2,000 from individual EU members. This leaves a very large percentage. What are we doing to encourage people to supply information there?

Finally, can the Minister give an estimate on the number of Syrian would-be jihadists who have returned to this country? How many of them are under surveillance and how many are on deradicalisation programmes? I understand that he may be constrained on the last point, but it would be helpful if he could give some indication.

Lord Bates: I think the noble Lord was Home Secretary at the time of the 7/7 attacks and therefore knows absolutely what must be going on and the vital part played by our international networks in tracking people down and keeping others safe. He is right to ask about what specific help has been given. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, also asked about that. The type of help we given the Belgians includes CCTV analysis, forensic device investigation, bomb scene management, exploiting social media and body recovery.

On the Europol counterterrorism point, I do not know specific numbers. I know there are some 800 foreign fighters who have returned to the UK. We have made it clear that anyone returning can expect to be the subject of interest to the authorities and to be contacted by them. Where it can be shown that they have been engaging in criminal acts abroad, they will be—and have been—prosecuted and that will continue to be the case.

Baroness Ludford (LD): My Lords, does the Minister agree with me that those who blame the EU and Schengen for terrorism are completely and outrageously wrong? Indeed, since the apparent perpetrators lived in Brussels, where the attacks were committed, Schengen is irrelevant. Does he also agree—as I think he does—that it was evidently right to opt back into the 30-odd EU police co-operation measures, including the Schengen information system and now the Prüm regulations? That would not have happened without contributions from a lot of people, including the Liberal Democrats.

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If the Eurosceptics—including those in the Conservative Party—had had their way, we would not now be taking part in these essential European co-operation measures. Although Norway is in Prüm, it has no right to contribute to its further evolution. It is essentially an observer.

Lord Bates: First and foremost, and particularly at times such as this, the prime responsibility of any Government is the safety and security of their citizens and their borders. This has to be our top priority. It transcends and takes over from any other factor of domestic debate. It just does not counter it. As I have outlined, there are some major international relationships that are very important to us in sharing information. Among these are those we enjoy with our European partners. We believe these ought to be strengthened and deepened at every opportunity.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB): My Lords, I welcome the Statement. As it says, there is a twisted narrative here. We have to remember that this twisted narrative is a many-headed monster. If it does not spring from Daesh, it will spring up wherever law and order have broken down. That must be combated.

I was particularly encouraged, therefore, to hear what the Minister said about keeping increasingly close relationships with the Muslim community in this country from where so many sources of our information come. In response to the recent report from the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, chaired by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, the Government have called a meeting of major officials across all departments to discuss its implications. There is a whole range of issues—in particular the sensitivity of language. The Government have become increasingly sensitive to the proper use of language on these security issues and I commend them for it. The Minister sets a wonderful example. I encourage the Government to continue to have these meetings with leading organisations from the Muslim community, to receive advice on a whole range of security issues.

Lord Bates: The noble Lord is absolutely right. Of course, these meetings will be ongoing. I know, from having an office next door to the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, that he has a constant flow of visitors and meetings and a very full diary of engagements. This needs to continue and be developed. It is not something that just comes down from government; it also needs to come up from within the faith communities themselves. Some of the most effective means of countering these ideologies are ones that do not have a government fingerprint anywhere on them but come from within communities. We must all encourage more of this going forward.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, my noble friend said that the Prime Minister attended a meeting of COBRA this morning. Bearing in mind the tremendous importance of sharing information, is there not a case for a European equivalent? Nobody should attempt to bring these desperately serious issues into the European referendum debate. However, should we not recognise

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that, if there is a change on 23 June, although it is crucial that co-operation should continue, its context would be altered?

Lord Bates: That may be so. What I said in repeating the Statement was that we have the counterterrorism group which is a very important part of sharing intelligence across EU member states. The headquarters of NATO are also in Belgium. NATO plays an important part in our security because it includes Turkey, which is crucial in the fight against Daesh.

Baroness Uddin (Non-Afl): My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Wallace, for their comments. My heart goes out to all those who lost their lives in Brussels and Ankara; the list given by the Minister is endless. I welcome his comments particularly on building and developing a greater relationship with the Muslim community in particular, but also on having wider interfaith networks. I declare my interest as an adviser for the Tell Mama organisation, which will concur with the Minister about the increasing rise of attacks against women in particular. I am interested to ensure that the Minister takes on board the discussion with a wider network of men and women within the Muslim community, not just those to whom government approvals are available. Please can the Minister respond and tell us what plans the Government have to ensure that the numbers of organisations and individuals to which they are talking are widened to accept even the most marginalised voices in the community?

Lord Bates: We have the Prevent and the Channel programmes, but we also have them in the context, which is very helpful, of the counterextremism strategy, which was published at the end of last year. That will probably lead fairly shortly to some legislation coming through this House, which will flesh out some of the points that the noble Baroness raised. But I return to the point that some of the most effective means of combating this distortion and perversion of a great faith in this country comes from within the communities themselves.

Lord Carlile of Berriew (LD): Does the Minister agree that it is a disappointment that the same group which killed over 100 people in Paris on 13 November was able to kill more than 30 people in Brussels yesterday? If that is right, does he agree that the welcome co-operation that has taken place between the intelligence agencies of the Five Eyes and the European countries other than the United Kingdom should be re-examined, so that we ensure that we have the technical abilities, including surveillance capacity, required to ensure that this is not repeated in yet another European capital, which might be our own?

Lord Bates: That is absolutely correct. Of course, that is one of the prime drivers behind the investigatory powers legislation—but the noble Lord will notice that, when we talk about the global fight against terror, the sophistication of the Daesh communications,

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with the use of social media as a way of communicating, is a completely new challenge for the security services. That is why we are putting the resources into GCHQ. Because Daesh is based in Syria, we need to make sure that we take the fight to it and destroy its capabilities there before it has the opportunity to destroy our way of life here.

Viscount Slim (CB): My Lords, we have to admit that our island—land, sea and air—is rather sieve-like, and those who really want to get into this country do so. In the front line that the Minister so ably talks about, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, put his finger on an empty space at the moment. I refer to the Border Force, which I support very strongly. It is a matter of better tasking; better direction, command and control; better selection and recruiting of its members; training; and a rapid reaction force available day and night. We have 200-plus airfields unattended at night. We have coves north, south and east where it is quite easy to arrive at night undetected. People are a bit forgetful of the west coast; people are entering more from Ireland at the moment. I would class our Border Force as just average at the moment. I do not believe that the Government are giving it proper support, and the sooner it is got up to a high operational level to take part in the front line the better. The Government are missing a trick here.

There is one little suggestion that I might make. The Government have kicked out 25,000 military—good recruiting ground. They know how to work at night in the darkness, and that sort of thing. With immigration, so many people say that we are not taking enough and that we ought to be swamped a bit. The sleeper, the activist and the bomb-maker can all come in that way, and are coming, and we have to be very careful. We need a Border Force worthy of the front line, and the Government must do something about it.

Lord Bates: The noble Viscount is right to refer to the Border Force. I can speak only for the people whom I meet, who have the highest professionalism and resolve. It has changed over the past few years. The National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 referred to that, saying that there was a case for better intelligence-led security. That is where we need to strengthen up—on the connections between the National Crime Agency and between the police and Special Branch and the security agencies. Receiving that signal and human intelligence is also very important. We cannot hope to have border posts in every cove and field across the country, as the noble Viscount suggested. Therefore, we have to rely on intelligence and on partnership with the communities as well.

Lord Marlesford (Con): My Lords, I am glad that the Government are tightening up passport control and are seizing and cancelling British passports under royal prerogative when appropriate. But does the Minister remember that last week in a Written Answer he said to me:

“Records are not held centrally of persons holding both a UK passport and foreign passport”.?

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Surely it is now urgent that Border Force officials should be able to scan a British passport and know what other passports that person may hold. Otherwise, they may be able to skip out of the country. Recently, somebody actually on bail for a terrorist offence did exactly that.

Lord Bates: Of course, that is also one of the reasons why we have in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act the ability to seize passports, which are the property not of the individual but of the state that issues them. So we can seize those passports. We need more information on identity. On the point that the noble Lord makes about having two passports, we have changed the passport form to make sure that people can declare when that is the case. We have in place exit checks. All that is working in the general direction in which the noble Lord wants us to go.

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): My Lords, for how much longer are the British Government going to resist the introduction of national identity cards with full biometric data, on the same basis that other—indeed, nearly all—European countries have introduced such a system? I understand that in recent weeks even the Japanese are doing the same. They all justify it on the basis that it improves their national security arrangements. Why do we not just do it and stop dithering over it?

Lord Bates: Brussels has a compulsory ID system, and that is not something that guarantees security. From our point of view, we say that intelligence and working with communities is what has disrupted the seven attacks planned in this country in the past 18 months. Of course, we need to tighten security at every level, but we do not believe that compulsory ID cards are the way forward.

Housing and Planning Bill

Housing and Planning Bill

Committee (9th Day) (Continued)

3.20 pm

Relevant document: 20th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee

Amendment 102CZA

Moved by Lord Greaves

102CZA: After Clause 143, insert the following new Clause—

“Limitations on planning obligations

Regulation 123 of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010 (further limitations on use of planning regulations) is repealed.”

Lord Greaves (LD): My Lords, this is a small issue, in a sense. It is a kite-flying amendment not directly related to what is in the Bill, like many other amendments we have been discussing. However, it is an important issue for local authorities that are affected by it. Regulation 123 of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations refers to Section 106 agreements. When the CIL regulations were brought in, it was tagged on to them,

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almost without anybody noticing—although I complained about the regulation when it came to be approved by this House.

I am challenging not the regulation as such but the bit of Regulation 123(3)(b) that restricts the number of Section 106 agreements within the area of one local planning authority to five,

“which provide for the funding or provision of that … type of infrastructure”.

That means that a local planning authority can have only five Section 106 agreements in place anywhere within its area for one particular type of infrastructure. I hope that the Minister will understand the very specific point I am making. I will come to it in a minute.

I want to be clear that I am not objecting to the requirements of Section 106 which nowadays have to be site specific. It used to be that you could have a planning application at one end of an authority and get some money for a playground miles away at the other end of the authority. That was quite rightly stopped. Agreements have to be site specific—in other words, related to the particular planning application or piece of land, as the Minister said earlier. I am not objecting to the restrictions on pooling Section 106 contributions to build up a pot for large schemes, and there is a limit to how far that can be done. It is just ordinary, small Section 106 contributions that are typically connected to retail developments, housing developments and so on. Again, I am not talking about the affordable housing things that we were talking about this morning.

The limit to five schemes is not logical for four reasons. First, there may well be more than five separate schemes that are relevant or appropriate to particular developments, even though they are of the same type. For example, it may be that Section 106 contributions are being used to support a local bus service—the kind of bus service which is subsidised or supported by the local highways authority under the Transport Act—and a contribution may be made in order to extend the route to serve a particular housing estate or so that it serves the supermarket or whatever. I have had a lot of experience in past decades of helping to support local bus services through this means, and at the same time providing public transport to new housing developments or new supermarkets.

It may well be that a Section 106 agreement is required for a public open space, and it is silly to say that you can have only five open spaces if you have seven developments that would benefit from this provision. So there is no logic to it. It came in as part of the restrictions on making Section 106 agreements site specific and stopping people building up big pots, but it is not now necessary.

The second reason is that, because Section 106 agreements are now site specific, there is no reason to limit the number. Logic says that the number should be determined by the number of appropriate developments and appropriate schemes. Thirdly—and here I am talking to some extent against a small authority such as my own—the limit applies per local planning authority, however big or small. So it is five for a huge area such as Northumberland or Cornwall, five for a little authority

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such as Rutland, five for small district councils and five for big cities. It is an arbitrary number and there is no sense to it.

Finally, it causes particular problems where a local authority has no CIL contributions. Where the level of CIL has been assessed as zero, it cannot be levied. The kind of councils I keep talking about during this Bill, including my own in Lancashire and lots of other councils in Lancashire and the north of England, cannot levy a CIL because if you levy a CIL, it takes developments completely over the border into being unviable. In areas where developments are only marginally viable on the best greenfield sites, you cannot levy a CIL.

Therefore, the contributions for local infrastructure that come from a CIL are not available in areas of that kind, and those areas are by their very nature probably poorer in different ways than the more prosperous parts of the country that can levy a CIL. So poorer areas do not get the infrastructure levy. Therefore we have to rely on what we can get from Section 106, and this restriction on Section 106 is arbitrary and illogical. I hope that the Government will take it away and have a look at it. They do not have to bring it back in this Bill; they can simply make a minor change to the CIL regulations. I beg to move.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves for his amendment. The Government introduced the pooling restriction in Regulation 123 of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010 in order to ensure that planning obligations are used appropriately. The regulations have encouraged 107 charging authorities to bring forward the levy, which provides greater certainty for developers about the cost of developments and helps those authorities provide certainty to their communities about how their infrastructure needs can be met.

Pooling restrictions limit the use of Section 106 to no more than five for a specific infrastructure levy type or project, as the noble Lord said, but this has helped to incentive the adoption of the levy. Adoption nearly trebled in the year prior to the pooling restriction taking effect in April 2015, and it has continued to grow since. While acknowledging that Section 106 still has a role to play in site-specific infrastructure, the Government launched a review of the levy last year to ensure that it provides an effective mechanism for funding infrastructure. The review is considering, among other matters, the relationship between the levy and Section 106 planning obligations. I would be happy to ensure that the panel is aware of the noble Lord’s thoughts on the repeal of the regulation. With that in mind, I hope that he will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Greaves: I am grateful for the last sentence of that reply. I am talking not about pooling Section 106 contributions for bigger projects but about the limit on the number of small projects that can be funded directly linked in a site-specific way to particular developments. The perfectly justifiable intentions of

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the Government to stop Section106 being an alternative to CIL has caught the small schemes and small contributions in a way that was not intended. That specific point ought to be looked at.

Having said that, the other point is that it is okay having lots of incentives to levy CIL—but not if the consequence of levying CIL is that no development at all takes place. Remember, I come from an authority where getting into three figures of new starts or completions a year is proving very difficult indeed. In one recent year it was in single figures and that is not for the lack of trying to build, as far as the authority is concerned. Indeed, in one recent year when 50 or 60 completions took place, they were almost all built by the authority. The private market hardly exists—or has hardly existed in the last few years.

3.30 pm

Therefore, you cannot levy CIL. Well, you can levy it, but the effect will be to stop all development. The decision on the CIL will go to inspection. If we tried to levy a CIL, it would almost certainly be kicked out at inspection because all the developers would complain. We cannot levy CIL, so we have to rely on Section 106. Here is something that has happened as a result of the legislation which is stopping perfectly sensible local contributions to something near to or next to something site specific, such as a local bus service. It is a fairly straightforward thing. I am sure it is not beyond the competence of draftsmen to draft something which stops the pooling—which is the intention—but allows small things like this that are separate and discrete to go ahead. Having said that, I welcome what the Minister said and if I can find the time I will write to her about it as well. On that, I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment 102CZA withdrawn.

Clause 144: Development consent for projects that involve housing

Amendment 102CA

Moved by Lord Greaves

102CA: Clause 144, page 73, line 17, leave out “related” and insert “subsidiary”

Lord Greaves: My Lords, we now move on to the part of the Bill that is about housing development linked to applications for development control under the 2008 Act for nationally significant infrastructure projects. This series of amendments probes the provisions which will take the housing element of such projects—where they are linked to infrastructure projects—out of the hands of local authorities and allow people to make the application for development consent under the infrastructure system and to include the housing provision within that application.

The purpose of tabling these amendments is to ask some related questions. A very useful briefing note from the Department for Communities and Local Government, called the Housing and Planning Bill: Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects and Housing, does answer some of the questions I had in my mind

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when I tabled these amendments. Nevertheless, some questions remain, and one fundamental issue has a big question mark against it.

Amendment 102CA would name the housing projects which are linked with the infrastructure projects “subsidiary”, which seems to me an appropriate word. It is important that they be seen to be subsidiary or ancillary and not a major part—even if they are 30% or 40% of the reason for the development. Housing ought not to be the reason for the development. Infrastructure projects are the reason for the development.

Amendment 102CC, to new subsection (4B) of Section 115 of the Planning Act 2008, states:

“‘Related housing development’ means development which … (a) consists of or includes the construction or extension of one or more”,

new dwellings. I take it that “consists of” is okay—it “consists of” housing or “includes” housing. What else is there? That is the question. I take it that the “what else” is not the infrastructure, but something else. Therefore, why do things other than housing need to be included?

Amendments 102CF and 102CG challenge the geographical reason for allowing people to include housing in an application for development consent. The briefing note on page five sets out clearly that the Government intend that there will be two reasons for allowing housing development. The functional need ought to be allowed. Paragraph 17 states that:

“Where housing is being provided on the basis of a functional need”,

the limit for the number of houses can be up to 500, which seems rather a lot, even for a functional need. Perhaps the Government can tell us under what circumstances an infrastructure development might also require 500 houses. But paragraph 16 states:

“Where housing is being provided on the basis of geographic proximity to an infrastructure project, the maximum amount of permanent housing that could be granted consent”,

is also 500 houses. I do not understand why the Government are going to allow a national infrastructure project to be put forward with up to 500 houses when the only connection between those houses and the project is geographical proximity: either adjacent or, as my Amendment 102CD puts it, “close to”—the briefing note says up to a mile away.

It seems that the planning permission for new housing estates of up to 500 houses—perhaps most are smaller—is being taken out of the hands of local planning authorities just because the estate in question is next to, or within a mile or so of, a new infrastructure project. I cannot understand the logic of this. I can understand why landowners might want to link them together and perhaps fund one out of the other. Five hundred houses, by any standards, is a big new housing development. It ought to be in the hands of the local planning authority. The guidance sets out that the Secretary of State, in making his decision on the application for development consent, will have to take account of the local plan and the national planning policy framework, and whether it is in a national park or ecologically significant, for example. All these things will need to be taken account of. Local planning authorities do that all the time. However, issues such as design, the relationship between the new development

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and the existing communities, local highways issues, access, or even Section 106 agreements for new bus services ought to be in the hands of the democratically elected local planning authorities, not put into the hands of the Secretary of State.

There are very good reasons why the national infrastructure planning system exists for national infrastructure projects. There are reasons that I can understand for housing being part of the project—when it is directly related to those projects because it is for people who are going to work there—and it is sensible to put in a planning application for development consent. However, I see no reason at all why local authorities should have this decision seized from them by the Secretary of State simply because a project is next to a new national infrastructure project, even if none of the people living in those houses is going to be associated with, connected with or working at the new development. It seems to be a step too far in the centralisation of the local planning functions of local authorities, and yet another move away from localism to centralism. I beg to move.

Lord Shipley (LD): My Lords, my name is associated with Clause 144 stand part, and I agree entirely with what my noble friend Lord Greaves has said. I regard this as a very important issue because it effectively cuts out local authorities from the planning process on a nationally important infrastructure decision. Simply permitting an applicant to go straight to the Secretary of State to secure approval seems to me to be the wrong approach. What my noble friend said helps us to solve the problem.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con): I am very grateful to the noble Lord for setting out the basis of his amendment. This clause will allow the Secretary of State to grant development consent for housing that is related to a nationally significant infrastructure project. I hope I can reassure noble Lords about the Government’s intentions and the protections that are in place to ensure that this provision is appropriately restricted.

Clause 144 allows consent to be granted for housing where the housing is functionally linked to an infrastructure project—for example, housing needed for employees at the project. It also allows housing to be consented if it is close to the infrastructure. Any housing that is granted consent within the nationally significant infrastructure regime must be secondary to the infrastructure by satisfying the requirements of being appropriately linked by function or location. The clause will not allow projects that are housing-led.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, indicated that he felt that responsibility for granting consent for such housing should lie with local authorities, not the Secretary of State. We believe that this would inhibit developers from realising some significant benefits. For example, a key aim of the Planning Act 2008 was to provide for a single consenting regime. This clause will mean that developers do not have to make a further separate application to the local authority for housing as well as their application to the Secretary of State for consent for the infrastructure. We believe that this strikes the right balance between the two.

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It is very important that we recognise that the development of infrastructure projects may well bring important new opportunities to develop housing that were not previously available. A new road or a rail project, or improvements to existing projects, can make land available for housing development that might not previously have been suitable. Although there are only a limited number of nationally significant infrastructure projects that seek consent each year—49 projects have been consented since 2010—the clause offers an opportunity to provide a small but important contribution to the provision of new housing.

The Government have ensured that safeguards will be in place so that existing local and national planning policies will not be undermined. For example, as the noble Lord said, we have made clear in draft guidance that the amount of housing that is likely to be consented will be limited to 500 dwellings. As I have said, we believe that that may be appropriate if some infrastructure projects create new opportunities for housing. Existing planning policies set out in the National Planning Policy Framework—for example, those that may limit development in designated areas, and policies set out in local plans—are likely to be important and relevant considerations that will be taken into account by the Secretary of State when decisions are taken.

I hope I can reassure noble Lords that local authorities and interested parties can play a full role in the process leading up to any decision by the Secretary of State under the Planning Act regime for deciding nationally significant infrastructure. In particular, local authorities can produce what are known as local impact reports, which set out the impacts of the development in their area. Such reports are specifically identified as something the Secretary of State must have regard to when taking a decision.

The noble Lord asked why we say “includes housing”. “Includes” means that related development can include local infrastructure. The nationally significant infrastructure planning regime already requires significant local engagement in consultation, as I said. Applicants are required to engage and consult with local communities and local authorities from the outset, and developers will be expected to engage with local authorities on the housing element of their scheme in the same rigorous manner.

I hope that my responses have provided reassurances to the noble Lord, and I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

3.45 pm

Lord Greaves: I am grateful to the Minister for explaining the Government’s position in great detail. Having heard it again, I am even more sure that it is wrong. Sorry about that, but when you find out what things actually mean, sometimes you think they are okay but sometimes it confirms your view that they are wrong. The idea that 500 houses are a minor part of a development, in any area, is nonsense. In terms of their impact on a community and how it operates, 500 houses anywhere are a lot of houses. I accept that if such a development is directly associated with the infrastructure scheme and required for it in a functional

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way, it is reasonable for one application to take place. However, the only real argument that has been put forward is that it is a good idea to build next to a new infrastructure because new roads and access will be put in. In planning terms, it might be a good idea, or it might not be. In planning terms, it might be a very bad idea because of the disadvantages of living next to whatever the new infrastructure is. Or it might be a very good idea. That is a decision that ought to be taken by the local planning authority. It just seems unnecessary to say that 500 houses that are not related to the infrastructure scheme at all, but are simply next to it, ought to be taken away from the decision-making of the local authority. The only argument that I can think of is that it is again just more convenient and easy for the developers. That is the second time today that I have said that too much of this Bill seems to be about making life easier for developers and blow the consequences for everybody else. I am unhappy as I think it is the wrong decision. We might bring it back on Report; but for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 102CA withdrawn.

Amendments 102CB to 102CJ not moved.

Amendment 102CK

Moved by The Duke of Somerset

102CK: Clause 144, page 73, line 40, at end insert—

“(7A) Guidance referred to in subsection (7) must include a requirement for the developer to pay development value for land that is compulsorily purchased for housing as part of any nationally significant infrastructure project.”

The Duke of Somerset (CB): My Lords, I will also speak to the other amendments in this group. I do so on behalf of my noble friends Lord Cameron of Dillington and Lord Lytton, who are unable to be here today. We have had suggestions for some of these amendments from the CLA, of which I declare my membership.

For a long time, compulsory purchase in this country has been a messy compilation of many pieces of legislation and is well overdue for reform. As time has gone on, it has become ever more unbalanced in favour of the acquiring authorities and the agents of the state. Indeed, many privatised utility operators have gained compulsory purchase powers—and apparently, at the last count, there are 172 of them.

I turn to the amendment. I mentioned in our Second Reading debate my concern that it was unfair for an acquiring authority to be able to purchase land for housing as part of an NSIP at current use values. Last week, the Minister made a strong case in resisting an amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, who wanted an agricultural use valuation for local authority compulsory purchases. He spoke of land being valued by the “no-scheme world” and said that market value took into account the effect of planning permission already granted and thus “hope value”. I therefore feel that it must follow that once an NSIP has been granted planning permission, then the value of adjoining land for housing is substantially enhanced by the very existence of the scheme. Thus, development

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value is established and should be applied where the proposed land for housing within one mile of such a scheme is valued. It is the same as if the land had been purchased on the open market. Will the Minister explain to the House why an NSIP should make the principle of fairness so different? It is still confiscatory. Is it the Government’s intention that the retail purchasers of the new houses should benefit from this largesse, or is it for the benefit of the acquiring authority? I find Clause 144 rather offensive.

I turn now to Amendments 103BC and 103BD. There are normally two imperative concerns for farmers and landowners faced with compulsory purchase. The first is the effect on the smooth continuation of their businesses: perhaps the splitting of the land, for example. Their second concern is how much and when they will be paid. In the past, payment has routinely been late and after entry. This is unfair and needs to be changed. Farmers already have to cope with supermarkets’ delayed payment exploitation. Moves are afoot to improve this, so why should we not legislate properly now—and in the same spirit—to establish the principle of payment in advance of entry for compulsory purchase? In these circumstances, owners face extra costs and need promptly to replace assets lost in order to continue in business. Why should they have to delay or borrow—through no fault of their own—to continue their businesses?

The Government have proposed to improve the interest rates applicable, but I do not believe that they are realistic or raised to the commercial rates of lending. The CLA has suggested rates in line with late commercial payments, and those are similar to those set out in Amendment 103BD, which I support. I believe that the Government are consulting on this, and I await the outcome. Nevertheless, the principle must be payment in advance or no possession, with proper interest rates applicable for failure to follow that. At any rate, it should be cheaper to do this, as landowners will be disinclined to fight the order knowing that they will get a fairer price for their assets. Of course, if the primary principle is adhered to, there should be no need to invoke the 8% penalty rate that is mentioned in the amendment, as the standard 4% rate should encourage the authority to pay promptly.

Acquiring authorities are in a strong position while negotiating, so Amendment 103BF in this group is consequential. It would help to prevent bullying by introducing a new duty of care to ensure fairness between the parties by setting out guidelines on behaviour. This is in effect a good-practice clause, which is needed as acquiring authorities usually have the upper hand in negotiations against the landowner, who is thus in a weaker position.

Other amendments in this group in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, are intended to tidy up a series of procedural anomalies and have been suggested by the Compulsory Purchase Association, of which I am not a member. Amendment 103BAA is necessary to safeguard the acquiring authority’s position where—even though it exercised due diligence in seeking to identify those interested in the land and entitled to a notice to treat—after serving notice of entry it becomes aware of a previously unknown person with a relevant interest in the land to be acquired.

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Under the current provisions of the 1965 Act, if new interests come to light between serving a notice to treat or notice of entry and taking entry, a new notice needs to be served, resulting in 14 days’ delay. This does not give rise to serious problems at present with only 14 days’ notice of entry but it would become a significant problem with the longer notice period of three months proposed in the Bill.

Acquiring authorities rely on information provided by claimants as to who has a relevant interest in land. I am told that it is quite common to be provided with incorrect information, such as trading names rather than company names or the names of individuals. If an acquiring authority has acted in good faith in serving the notices, such as relying on information provided under Section 5A of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981—the questionnaire requiring information on legal interests—it should still be entitled to proceed, which is what this amendment would facilitate.

Another material adverse side-effect of the Bill’s provisions as drafted is that those served with notices could effectively ransom a promoter by creating a new interest every time a new notice was served. Controversial projects could simply be prevented from ever acquiring land by opponents to the scheme using such a device. This amendment would therefore also prevent acquiring authorities potentially being ransomed by the creation of a new interest in land after service of a notice of entry.

Amendment 103BG relates to circumstances where a claimant considers that the land proposed to be compulsorily acquired cannot be taken without material detriment to the remainder. This is sometimes referred to as the “all or nothing” provision and it is already contained in the compulsory purchase rules under Section 8 of the Compulsory Purchase Act. The amendment is necessary to ensure that, subject to adequate notice, the acquiring authority is able to take possession of the land originally proposed to be acquired, even where the owner has served a counter-notice requiring additional land to be taken. This is the same as the current position and it works quite effectively without any prejudice to landowners who contend that the acquiring authority should also be obliged to acquire more land than that initially proposed to be acquired. However, paragraph 5(a) of new Schedule 2A in Schedule 17 to the Bill provides that on service of a counter-notice, all notices of entry relating to any interests in the land proposed to be acquired would cease to have any effect. As such, this would have a seriously deleterious effect on the timing and costs involved in compulsory purchase and on implementing a project. This would not arise if the Bill were amended as proposed.

Finally, Amendment 103BH is necessary to give effect to paragraph 5 as amended in the way that I have just proposed. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): My Lords, I do not want to exhaust the patience of the Committee but once again I draw attention to the fact that the problem of high housing prices in this country stems from the cost of land. These amendments, clearly promoted by the Country Land and Business Association, which represents the interests of landowners—the people

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who will benefit from the exorbitant and inflated prices being paid for land in the United Kingdom—should be opposed by the Committee. I oppose them, and anyone with any sense will oppose them, as will the great majority of the British people.

One day we are going to have to deal with the problem of inflated land prices in the United Kingdom, which are almost unique in the world outside of the great capital cities, and we are simply ignoring it. This situation cannot carry on as it is. We are removing the right of millions of people—whole generations—to own their own home, unless they are prepared to take on huge mortgages, simply to fill the pockets of people who own land. I object, as no doubt do the great majority of the British people.

4 pm

Lord Beecham (Lab): My Lords, Amendment 103BB deals with a minor but to some people significant point, which is the compensation to be payable when land is acquired by a development corporation. The amendment simply provides that the Secretary of State may by order set out a formula for determining fair compensation to the landowner in those circumstances. That seems a reasonable proposition.

Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con): My Lords, I turn to the detail of the compensation amendments, Amendments 102CK and 103BB, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, but spoken to today by the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset.

I will outline briefly the principles of compensation for land taken by compulsion. These points have arisen in an earlier amendment in Committee. The compensation code is underpinned by the principle of equivalence. This means that the owner should be paid neither less nor more than his loss. The code provides that land shall be purchased at its open-market value, disregarding the effect of the scheme underlying the compulsory purchase.

The land is valued in a construct called the no-scheme world, whereby any increase or decrease in value that is due to the scheme is disregarded. Land will always have its existing-use value but market value also takes into account the effect of any planning permissions that have already been granted and of the prospect of future planning permissions. This is generally known as hope value, as the noble Duke eloquently pointed out. In the context of compensation for compulsory purchase, this is assessed according to the planning assumptions in the Land Compensation Act 1961, which require the valuer to assume that the scheme underlying the acquisition is cancelled. I remind the House that these were extensively revised and debated in the Localism Act 2011.

In some situations, there will be no hope value, because the individual claimant could not have obtained planning permission for some more valuable use. For instance, the land might be in an isolated rural location where permission for development would have been unlikely to be granted in the absence of a comprehensive scheme requiring compulsory purchase powers. In other

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situations, perhaps where land is acquired near an existing settlement, there will be pre-existing prospects for development on the land. In lay man’s language, that is development potential that existed prior to the scheme. The strength of those prospects will be reflected in the market value of the land.

On Amendment 102CK, it has been said that land acquired for housing by means of a development consent order should always attract development value. If the land had development potential in the absence of the scheme underlying the development consent order, that hope value would be reflected in the market value and the compensation to be paid. But an increase in the value of the land that is solely attributable to the scheme would be disregarded under the compensation code.

I turn to Amendment 103BB. The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, have suggested that there is something unique about the land taken for new towns that requires the Secretary of State to provide a formula for compensation. New towns may well fall into the class of case 1 mentioned earlier, where there is no pre-existing hope value, as there is no reasonable prospect of development in the absence of a comprehensive scheme requiring compulsory purchase powers. In this situation, compensation in the no-scheme world is likely to be at or close to agricultural values. Schedule 1 to the Land Compensation Act 1961 makes it very clear that for new towns any increase in value that is attributable to the development of other land in the new town must be disregarded, where that development would not have been likely to be carried out had the area not been designated as a new town.

I thank the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, for the amendments spoken to by the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset. I suspect that your Lordships will not be very keen to be further enlightened this afternoon by a technical debate on these particular matters. However, we shall look carefully at what the noble Duke said, and I shall write further to him and the noble Earl before Report about these matters.

Lord Campbell-Savours: The Minister said that he will write to the noble Duke. Can we all see a copy of that letter, and can we have an assurance that there will be no movement, no concession made to the CLA, in this area?

Viscount Younger of Leckie: I am not in a position to make any guarantees this afternoon, but I will certainly include all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and copies will be placed in the Library of the House.

I turn to the compulsory purchase policy elements and Amendments 103BC to 103BF. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, and the noble Earl for raising these important matters, again spoken to by the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset. They concern the matter of ensuring that advance payments of compensation are not only paid, but paid on time. This links to the equally important question of the way that acquiring authorities should treat claimants when land is being purchased by compulsion.

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Starting with Amendment 103BC, having considered the responses to the spring 2015 consultation, the Government think that penal rates of interest on outstanding advance payments are the most appropriate sanction, and we are providing for this in Clause 174. Taken together with the new arrangements for making claims and obtaining further information in Clauses 172 and 173, we think that the prospect of a penal rate of interest will sufficiently concentrate the minds of acquiring authorities, so that advance payments will be made on time.

I now turn to Amendments 103BD and 103BE. The Government think that setting interest rates in a Bill is too restrictive. Provision to set both rates is available in secondary legislation. Coming to the detail of the amendments, the Government think that it is premature to decide on the punitive rate of interest for late payments of advance payments of compensation—as proposed in new subsection (1A) of new Section 52B in Amendment 103BD. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, will know that the Government published our consultation paper on phase 2 of our compulsory purchase reform programme on 21 March. The good news is that the paper proposes that 8% above the base rate should be the punitive rate for late payments of advance payments.

The second part of Amendment 103BD—proposed new subsection (1B)—would overtake the existing provisions in Section 32 of the Land Compensation Act 1961 to set the rate of interest for compensation unpaid at the date of entry. This rate is not punitive, as there are often legitimate reasons for some compensation to be unpaid at that date. The final claim for many businesses, for example, cannot be finalised until their relocation has been completed.

Noble Lords will recall from the spring 2015 consultation that the Government consulted on increasing this rate of interest from 0.5% below the base rate. The Government confirmed in their response to consultation that the rate would be increased to 2% above the base rate. The Committee will be interested to hear that new regulations are in preparation by the Treasury and will be published in due course.

The new rate of 2% above base is intended to achieve an equitable and fair settlement between the claimant and the acquiring authority. The interest on unpaid compensation from the date of entry is not the same as the interest on commercial lending. It may be helpful if I say that it is more likely that it will be based on a formula which will compensate the claimant for interest which he or she would otherwise reasonably be receiving, had the money been otherwise invested. We can have a separate debate on that, I am sure.

I now turn to Amendment 103BF, which focuses on introducing a statutory duty of care to be owed by acquiring authorities to claimants. There is no doubt that claimants should be treated with fairness and courtesy and kept up to date with developments. This is best practice, and all competent professionals should be advising their clients to act in this way. The Government believe that a new statutory duty of care for compulsory purchase is not necessary and would not help relations between acquiring authorities and claimants. The kind of assistance which should be provided by an acquiring authority may differ depending on the circumstances.

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A broad duty of care may be imprecise in nature and difficult to enforce. The professionals working in compulsory purchase suggest that clear guidance on good practice would be a better way forward.

The recently updated compulsory purchase guidance, published on 29 October 2015, makes it clear that acquiring authorities should make reasonable offers of compensation in the context of overall project costs. Acquiring authorities should also be prepared to engage constructively with claimants about relocation issues and mitigation and accommodation works where relevant. The guidance also urges acquiring authorities to offer those with concerns about a compulsory purchase order full access to alternative dispute resolution techniques, from the planning and preparation stage to agreeing the compensation payable for the acquired properties. With these explanations, I ask the noble Duke to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Williams of Elvel (Lab): My Lords, I cannot see what attitude the Minister is taking towards the CLA amendments, as was raised by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours. Will he please set it out very simply ?

Viscount Younger of Leckie: Of course, I believe it will be best for me to include the technical details in the letter that I am already writing and will place in the Library of the House.

The Duke of Somerset: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his very full reply and the two noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate. Some of what we heard was good news; some of the rest not so good. I am sure that the noble Lords who tabled the amendments will, like myself, take great care in reading the reply.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, knows that the Committee has debated on a number of occasions his feelings about acquisition values. May I repeat what has been said on other occasions? Expropriation simply means that less land will come forward. It has been tried twice before and each time the development land tax has been a failure and has been withdrawn. Basically, any gains made through the sale of development land are taxed through the normal tax system. Finally, a lot of community benefit is funded out of the market value of these developments. I therefore do not go along with his hypothesis.

I look forward to hearing more about the consultation and thank the Minister for his reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 102CK withdrawn.

Clause 144 agreed.

Clause 145: Processing of planning applications by alternative providers

Amendment 102CL

Moved by Lord Greaves

102CL: Clause 145, page 74, line 6, at end insert—

“( ) A local planning authority may only be specified under subsection (1) if it so consents.”

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Lord Greaves: My Lords, at last we arrive at perhaps the remaining flashpoint in the Bill. I rise to move Amendment 102CL and speak to my other amendments in the group. There are two other very useful amendments from noble Lords in the group.

Clause 145 is a major, very controversial innovation. It may be the first step towards the privatisation of development management and yet it was dumped on the Commons on Report. There was a very short explanation by the Minister, one speech by Clive Betts MP at 1 am and the Minister refused to answer his questions—there was no reply from the Minister.

Here we are in the Lords at the very end of the Bill, at the end of the afternoon on day nine of nine, and we must try at least to give it some intelligent consideration. I have no doubt that the issue will come back on Report anyhow. The Government are saying that this is intended to be a pilot, but the Bill appears to give the Secretary of State untrammelled powers to introduce this provision to any extent he or she wishes at any time in the future, so the question of how it can be limited is an issue that the Committee ought to look at.

4.15 pm

I have referred previously in Committee to the Technical Consultation on Implementation of Planning Changes, which is an extremely useful document for helping to understand what is in Part 6 of the Bill. I say again that it is a pity that it was not sent to us as well. The technical consultation is very interesting on this matter and raises more questions than answers in my view. The first paragraph of the chapter headed, “Testing competition in the processing of planning applications”, reads:

“One form of innovation that we are keen to explore is competition in the processing of planning applications”.

The second paragraph says, referring to local authorities generally:

“The majority of research studies suggest cost savings of up to 20 per cent for competitively tendered or shared services”,

Cost savings are right at the beginning of the reasons for doing this, and the first reference to it is about local authorities collecting refuse 30 years ago. Other references suggest that the savings might be less than 20%, but all of them are old, including a reference to a study from 2008. What collecting refuse 30 years ago has to do with processing planning applications is a mystery to me, particularly after the huge reductions in spending that have been forced on local authorities, which have already produced what are either a lot of efficiency savings or a lot of inefficiency savings due to not having enough staff to do the work.

The Royal Town Planning Institute funded some useful research in the north-west of England which found that staffing in planning departments in the north-west had reduced by one-third since 2010: there are 37% fewer staff in planning policy departments and 27% fewer in development management. If local authorities are doing the same amount they did six years ago, they have already achieved that amount of efficiency savings. One would have imagined that was enough, but perhaps not.

The technical consultation goes on to say:

“These benefits could include giving the applicant choice, enabling innovation in service provision”—

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which is usually management-speak rubbish, but never mind—

“bringing new resources into the planning system, driving down costs”—

on the basis of refuse collection 30 years ago—“and improving performance”. I am being a bit cynical reading this out but as somebody who was involved in reducing costs in one local authority in particular, and peripherally in the county council as well, I know how much of this is going on now and how much innovation is taking place to achieve it.

I turn to choice. Development management is a local authority function and part of democratic local government—or local governance, if your Lordships prefer. It is part of the local planning system, closely integrated with plan-making and other functions, such as enforcement—often a poor relation—tree preservation orders, environmental management issues generally and the council’s involvement in promoting economic development in their areas, which, over the 45 years that I have been a councillor, has become more and more important. It hardly existed 45 years ago and is now a fundamental function, closely integrated with the planning system. But as well as all those things, it is a regulatory function. It is quasi-judicial at the point of determination and requires exercise of judgment. It is not a matter of ticking boxes, as building regulation control tends to be and some of the local authority functions may be. It requires the exercise of judgment at almost every stage of the operation—judgment in the light of policies at all levels, but it is required. It is not an appropriate service to be privatised, whether on pilot schemes or more widely, at any time.

One can think of other similar services provided by the public sector. Will we be able to choose which firm of tax inspectors we have to determine how much tax we pay, or will we have competing firms of parking wardens, some of whom might charge more, or be friendlier and let you off? Will we be able to choose the bailiffs who come to our door if we do not pay our council tax? I should say that I have paid mine for next year already. If we run cafés or fish shops, will we be able to have competing food standards officers from different firms, and to choose the ones we think might be more lenient to us? Will schools have an alternative private provider to Ofsted—that might be a good idea, actually—whereby they can choose which inspectors they want? The whole concept of privatising public regulatory services is flawed.

Will the new system undermine the viability of planning departments, which are already struggling under the cost-cutting being enforced by their finance departments and the local authority budget? Could it increase the costs to the local planning authority if it has to employ underemployed staff, since they will not know what the workload will be from one month or year to the next? Will we have competition by outcomes? Competition on the basis of efficiency may be fine, but will we have competition by fees, as some people charge lower fees than others? The consultation says that,

“benefits could include giving the applicant choice”.

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Will people game the system and discover that planning applications for extensions are more easily passed if they choose one lot and not the other? On the basis of experience, that is the kind of view that will be taken locally before very long.

What will the relationship with elected councillors be? At the moment, elected councillors tend to be involved at an informal level right through the process, if it is in their ward or they are chairman of the planning committee, or whatever it is. In my part of the world, who knows where the designated person—that is, the firm that will do it—will be? Will they be in Manchester or London? Will they be local? Who knows? Will we have two different sets of people doing the same things in the same area? What about contacts for residents and other people who will not know what is going on because there will be a different system according to who is carrying out the process?

What about cost recovery? Full cost recovery of processing and determining planning applications does not happen now. It is subsidised by local authorities. So how will it work with private providers? Will the provision in the Bill that the Secretary of State can make payments to private providers result in their being subsidised when in competition with the local planning authority? How will it work?

It is all very well arguing for efficiency from the private sector, but before it starts being more efficient—and I am not sure what it will be doing if all providers are based in Manchester or London—it has to make a profit on top of its costs before it can gain in efficiency, assuming that that is possible. Will there be a level playing field? Will the charges be the same? Will the private sector be able to undercut? Will it charge more and provide a better service—in other words, provide more recommendations for approval?

What about the work by the local planning authority that will have to take place even if a different provider is doing it? What about pre-application work? It may be that somebody has all the pre-application discussions with the local planning authority and then, at the point of putting it in, goes to the alternative provider. The local planning authority would be doing a lot of the work and getting none of the fee. How will that work?

What about information? Will it all be on the local authority’s website and will the local authority have to maintain that? How will that work? Or will people have to go to different places according to who is dealing with the planning application? How will people cope with that? How will the pre-decision review of reports, information and recommendations work? Who is going to advise a planning or department control committee when it is making a decision? Will the private provider come to sit at the committee and act as an officer?

Will a council planning officer going to be there to provide help and advice to the committee? Try going to the planning committee of a local authority and not having a planning officer there because they are all down with flu. I ended up suggesting all the reasons why we should turn something down. I cannot remember whether we won that appeal. You need officers there to provide technical legal advice. What happens if

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the planning officer’s recommendation is different from that of the alternative provider? Which prevails? Does the committee get two reports? How does that work?

I do not think that this has been thought out properly. There are lots of amendments in this group and I shall not go through them now. The Minister will have answers to them all; I will listen to the answers carefully and I may bring up later any with which I am not satisfied when I reply to the debate on this group. This seems to us to be a scheme which has been dreamed up on the back of the traditional fag packet, or whatever people use nowadays, and dumped on the Commons at the last minute. The best thing this House could do is send it back to the Government and say, “You might have a case, you might not have a case, but go away and bring it back when you have thought it out properly”. I beg to move.

Lord Beecham: My Lords, I respectfully adopt most of the arguments advanced by the noble Lord in his critique of this very unsatisfactory set of clauses. After the triumphant successes achieved with the privatisation of services such as prisons, probation, aspects of the NHS, electronic tagging, work capability assessment, residential care and so much more, we are now asked to endorse the involvement of the usual suspects—G4S, Serco, Capita, Sodexo et al—all in the name of efficiency in the planning process.

Many councils have found outsourcing to be expensive both in terms of cost and quality, but government dogma dictates that the process must continue, beginning in the planning field with what the technical consultation, to which the noble Lord has just referred, published last month, describes as:

“Testing competition in the processing of planning applications”.

But this is more than just a matter of councils being at first able—and, no doubt, eventually required—to outsource the work. It allows the applicant to choose who will do the work. The notion of a potential conflict of interest does not seem to have entered ministerial heads—or, if it did, it has been ignored.

As the Town and Country Planning Association has pointed out, this is not necessarily to be confined to a limited number of pilot projects or developments. Once again, secondary legislation may be employed, this time to extend the process to any form of development. The TCPA found no evidence of any prior consultation on these proposals. Can the Minister say whence this policy was derived, who was consulted before it was enshrined in the Bill and, in particular, whether any potential external providers were consulted or offered views before these clauses were drafted?

4.30 pm

What is the problem the proposal is intended to address and from whose perspective does it exist? Councils can, if they choose, outsource the work anyway—but with the cardinal difference that in that case the work is done not for the applicant but for the public, as represented by the local authority. Under the Bill, it would be the applicant’s adviser, not the adviser to the planning authority, who would have to make judgments about the process, as the noble Lord

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has just reminded us: for example, even in relation to consultation. Critically, Clause 146(2)(g) provides—the Committee will be surprised to learn—that,

“the circumstances in which, and the extent to which, any advice provided by a designated person to a person making a planning application is binding … on the responsible planning authority”—

which effectively privatises decision-making, not merely the application process. As the TCPA points out, this constitutes,

“a fundamental change in how the planning … process operates”.

The DCLG avers that binding advice would apply only in very limited circumstances. What circumstances? How limited? Who will decide the question in the course of any individual application? Why has this significant change been inserted into the Bill without prior consultation? Is this another product of one of the Government’s favourite think tanks, where the thinking is all too often limited but the process is tank-like and destructive in its lumbering progress? How very reassuring it is that, as the Minister Brandon Lewis told the House of Commons, the Secretary of State will be able to decide who is able to offer their services to process planning applications. The terminology is wonderful. The notion almost implies organisations motivated by the purest altruism coming to the aid of applicants and planning authorities, and magically overcoming any conflict of interest between the applicant and the community represented by its elected council.

As of 6 January, the Department for Communities and Local Government was unable to identify what types of bodies are likely to be classified as designated persons who would carry out the work. We are now approaching the end of March. Can the Minister tell us who will be classified as designated persons to carry out the work?

The TCPA raised the question of how the right to legal challenge by judicial review would be affected by the proposal. JR applies to public bodies. If a council outsources its services, JR is still available, where it is relevant, because the work is deemed still to be carried out by a public body. But under the Bill, the alternative provider is engaged by the applicant, not by the local authority, and therefore the process will be immune from such a challenge. How can the Government justify this or do they not care whether the lawfulness of the process may be subject to question in these circumstances?

No one would defend delays and inefficiency in the planning process. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has already reminded us, the huge pressure on council budgets is leading to significant staffing problems. That is a consequence of government policy that we appear doomed to suffer for at least four more years. But what are the Government going to do about the hundreds of thousands of extant and unused planning permissions—a much more important issue than that with which this clause purports to deal? Ideally, the Government should drop the provision. At the very least, they should accept Amendment 102DAA in my name, which would restrict the definition of a designated person to councils and public bodies and not to whoever may set themselves up, under the provisions of the Bill, as a performer of an external planning service.

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Lord Foster of Bath (LD): My Lords, so often during our deliberations on the Bill we have been hampered by a lack of information. We have not seen the draft regulations—we have discussed that many times. We have not even seen the result of the consultation that is currently taking place. Of course, we should remember that that consultation is not due to finish until 15 April and the responses are going to be analysed over the summer, so we will have finished all our deliberations on the Bill long before those responses have even been analysed.

Furthermore, we have not seen the Government’s response to the excellent report by the DPRRC. I remind noble Lords that last night the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, said:

“I also confirm to noble Lords that I will be responding to the DPRRC report tomorrow, as well as giving my intentions for Report”.—[Official Report, 22/3/16; col. 2276.]

I have been checking on an hourly basis, with all relevant bodies, including the Committee Office, whether they have received that response. I say to the Minister that I am certain that even though that has not yet been made public she will have a copy of it, and I hope that when she replies to this debate she will furnish the House with details of the Government’s intentions in relation to this part of the Bill and their responses to the committee’s recommendations and concerns, of which there are a large number.

Those concerns are in addition to those raised by my noble friend Lord Greaves and the noble Lord, Lord Beecham—concerns that I share. They add to what the committee says. It talks about the Bill being drafted very widely, in terms of the powers conferred on the Secretary of State, and goes on, in paragraph 38, to say:

“These are important provisions which, in effect, empower the Secretary of State to require local authorities chosen by him to privatise the processing of planning applications for a trial period. The impact on local authorities and their staff, and on those submitting planning applications, could be considerable”.

Yet we have no details to enable us to work out in detail what that impact would be.

The committee goes on to say:

“It is striking that the clauses contain no requirement on the Secretary of State either to consult before making pilot regulations, or to publish a report on the outcome of pilot schemes”.

This is a point raised, quite rightly, by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and is covered by an amendment from my noble friend, which comes later.

Most damningly of all, the committee then goes on to describe the powers given to the Secretary of State as “almost unfettered discretion”, on an issue about which we have no details with which we can work out what should be done. Not surprisingly, therefore, the committee goes through a long series of recommendations —changes to the legislation that it would like. There is a requirement to set out the intended purpose of the pilot regulations on the face of the Bill; to specify that the affirmative procedure should apply to every exercise of the powers conferred by the clauses; to require the Secretary of State to consult local authorities and other interested parties before making regulations; and to provide on the face of the Bill for the maximum duration of pilot regulations. The committee’s report goes on to say:

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“We also consider it inappropriate for the Bill to confer these highly significant powers on the Secretary of State without also requiring him to prepare and lay before Parliament a report on the outcome and effectiveness of each pilot scheme”.

My point, in going into some detail about that, is that we know that the Minister will have with her now a response to each of those points. It is incumbent on her to share those responses with the House before we finish our deliberations on these clauses in Committee. However, we also need from the Minister some clarity on other issues—for example, the pilots themselves—because we have at last been furnished with a timetable for the various bits of secondary legislation that will come before us. I am grateful to the ministerial team and their staff for providing us with that, but it is not a great deal of help when every single page that we have been given has a heading that helpfully says:

“Timings are indicative and may change as policy develops”.

I remind the House what it says in the limited information with which we have been provided in relation to the section headed “Processing of planning applications by alternative providers”:

“How many SIs are currently planned? One. What procedure? Negative”,

which I hope will change to affirmative. It then asks:

“What will they deal with?”,

and says that:

“The regulations will cover … the scope of the pilots”.

Later on, it talks about “pilot areas” and so it goes on, with reference to pilots in the plural. Indeed, we know that in the memo to the DPRRC the memorandum said:

“It is likely that different procedures may be trialled in different pilots, to see what works best”.

It is quite clear that the intention is to have a number of pilots, yet when I look at the question:

“What are the key timings?”,

it tells me that is not going to be a long time. It says that the consultation,

“closes on 15 April and the responses will be analysed over the summer, and the pilot scheme designed as a result”.

Here the word is singular: there will be one type of pilot rather than multiple pilots, so confusion begins to set in as well.

There are then confusions in relation to other aspects of the legislation. We had a discussion at a late hour last night, instituted by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, with her excellent amendment at midnight on the issue of planning fees. What we learned during that deliberation was that the vast majority of councils lose a great deal of money from the planning process. The average recovery is about 50%. We know that London boroughs, for instance, are losing somewhere in the region of £40 million each year on the operation of their planning departments. We also discovered that the increase which the Government are considering is to be no more than inflation since 2012 and that some councils deemed to be underperforming will get less than that. From the current plans, we therefore know that local authority planning bodies will continue to lose a great deal of money from this process.

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The question then has to be asked: if in some places we are going to privatise the process and bring other bodies in, how are those bodies going to come in knowing that if they have the government-prescribed fee scheme they will lose a great deal of money? It is simply not going to happen, so what is in the Government’s mind in relation to the setting of fees? I have done a detailed analysis of all the documents to try to help me work out what the fees should be. I looked, for example, at the technical consultation document with this very intriguing headline, which suggests that we will get a good detailed answer:

“Question 8.2: How should fee setting in competition test areas operate?”.

But it reads:

“In competition test areas, applicants would select who they want to process their planning application and pass it direct to the provider with the appropriate fee”.

That is all it says about the fee structure within the technical consultation document. The Explanatory Notes are equally helpful, telling us that:

“Clause 147 provides that regulations may set out how fees will be set, published and charged”.

But since we do not have any of the details because we do not even have draft regulations, we are in a great deal of difficulty.

The Government are going to find themselves in real difficulty if they allow full cost recovery and a profit for some people who come in, compared to local councils, which will charge only 50% of that price. That is hardly a good way of testing the so-called competitive market. It fails to take account of the many difficulties that different local authorities will face. We will have an opportunity to discuss this in a bit more detail in deliberations on some of the other elements of this legislation.

I want to end with one other area of confusion. It is pretty clear from all the documentation I read that the Secretary of State is going to decide which local authorities’ planning departments will have competition forced on them. I have looked very closely at the Government’s consultation document and I wish to read to the Minister what it says in chapter 8, paragraph 8.1:

“Nor is this about preventing local authorities from processing planning applications or”—

and these are the words from the Government’s own document—

“forcing them to outsource their processing function”.

Can the Minister tell us whether this is about forcing some councils to do this, or not? You cannot have a situation where the Government go out to consult on something and tell the people whom they are consulting one thing, when the reality of what they are planning is totally different.

4.45 pm

Lord Deben (Con): My Lords, I do not wish to repeat the concerns I have had for some time over the amount of information that is available about this Bill, the regulations and the like. We are debating the Bill in these circumstances and therefore I remind the House what the planning system is for. It is a disagreeable necessity. We have to have it because you cannot have a circumstance in which the unlimited, private ownership

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of land has an effect on neighbours and communities. It is not about land owned by the local authority. The owner owns the land. Whenever I hear planning discussed by the parties opposite, I am fascinated because you might think it was owned by the local authority and that it should come back to the fact that this is a local authority matter.

The House has to recognise that there is an international agreement on human rights in which property is a basic human right—not only under the United Nations, but under the European Union of which I am sure we shall remain a full and active member, even though there is such nonsense spoken about it by the Brexit people. I am not getting on to that, of course. Even if they do not like the European Union, they are stuck with the United Nations human rights declaration, which we signed.

I happen to care about the right to property. It is basic in a community. It is basic for democracy. If you want to destroy democracy, the first thing you destroy is the right to property because it gives people independence. It enables them to stand up against government; it enables them to put two fingers up to a local authority if that is what it thinks. Yet, when I hear a debate like this, I understand precisely why I am on these Benches. Very often I find myself arguing not entirely on the side of the Government. However, I have been very much reassured, by the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and particularly of the noble Lord, Lord Foster, and I understand why I am not a Liberal Democrat. It is because they are neither liberal nor democratic. That is the reality.

All the Government are suggesting is that it would do local authorities a lot of good to recognise that this is not a little bit of business which they do themselves in the way they want to do it. It is something which should be open to public concern and public alternatives. Of course, we can produce all sorts of scare tactics about what might happen and what people could do and all the things that might arise. What we are really arguing in the amendment is that we should not try anything else—there should be no opportunity for alternatives and no one ought to deal with this. Why? Because local authorities do not like it and because that well-known organ of democracy, in which I declare an interest as an honorary vice-president, the TCPA, does not hold with it.

The TCPA does not hold with a lot of things, mainly because it is still burdened by the memory of that dreadful old man, Ebenezer Howard—still thinking in the past, not understanding that we are in a world in which people do not expect there to be one provider or just one lot of people to go to. Today people expect that we test it all the time. The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, went through a whole list of things, but in every one of those cases the nationalised provider is a lot better because there is an alternative. There are better prisons because they do not all have to be done in one way. Even when you have failures, the fact that there is an alternative is crucial in a democracy and crucial for the efficiency of the national system.

I come to the nature of planning. I cannot believe that there is anyone in this House who thinks that the planning system works well. That does not mean to

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say that an alternative would be better; sometimes planning may be thought of as Churchill thought of democracy—that it is a thoroughly bad system, but there is not a better one. Sometimes I think that that is the best definition of planning that we have. I have declared my interest and my pastimes; although I shall certainly not be involved in anything that may come out of this, I try to help people to produce sustainable buildings. One business with which I have an association tries to make buildings better, more sustainable and energy efficient. But in the course of that, I have to deal with planners, and we have very great difficulties sometimes. There was the lady who said to one of my constituents who wanted to have the next-door very small, knobbly and unimportant field as part of his garden, “You don’t need a bigger garden—therefore you won’t get the right to use it as a garden”. That is ludicrous, to have to ask planning permission to turn a field into a garden. I can think of nothing more ridiculous than telling people that they have to get planning permission to do with their own land what most of us would like them to do, which is to turn it into a garden. But no—that is one of the things, because at some stage some local authority thought that it would be better telling people what to do with their land than people can do themselves.

Lord Greaves: The noble Lord is very entertaining although I am not sure what his speech has to do with this Bill. But if a local authority requires planning permission for the conversion of a piece of a field into a garden, that is precisely because government regulations in the general development order, or whatever it is now called, require that to happen. If the planning system is not working well—and every time I get a chance to debate planning anywhere, including in your Lordships’ House, I announce it to be bust, because I believe that it is bust—it is almost entirely the fault of the national Government and detailed national rules and regulations, which tie the whole thing down.

Lord Deben: I am so pleased that I tempted the noble Lord to intervene at that stage, because I can now tell him that I tried to change the law on that when I was the Minister, and who opposed me? Every blooming local authority—they were the ones who demanded to keep this power and said that it was so important. So I want us to come back to what the Government are asking. This is entirely relevant. I am glad that it is amusing to the noble Lord, but I believe it to be central to the amendment. The Government propose that we give the Secretary of State the power to see whether there are alternative ways in which to handle something that, in the noble Lord’s words, is in many ways bust. That is what he says, but if it is bust, would not it be a good idea to see whether there are ways of unbusting it? This is one of the suggestions.

What do we get? Not a series of suggestions about how we might refine it, improve it, make the tests rather better or come forward with various suggestions about how the various pilots might be carried through. Instead, we get an onslaught on the basis that the only people who can do this are local authorities or public bodies. The Government have produced something which is worth trying. If it does not work, we have not done anything bad. If it does work, we have learned something.

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The worst thing in politics is to say that we cannot do something because we have not done it before, that we cannot do something because it will not work or that we cannot do something because we do not want to try. This is the moment when we ought to say that we may be a very old House and many of us in it may be very old, but at least we are young enough to recognise that it would be a good thing to have a go at something different.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I listened very carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Deben. He seems to think that the problems that might arise—I think he used the words “might arise”—should not really concern us at this stage. That is what Parliament is about. It is about identifying issues, legislating and, in the event that we foresee problems arising, amending our position to ensure that those problems are avoided.

I want to target a very narrow area. It is the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, about the relationship between the planners in the planning authority and the planning contractor in the meeting with councillors. We are told that the proposal is that the contractor will be making the recommendation, but it is unlikely that the planner from the planning authority, who has a relationship with the councillors that probably goes back many years, may not wish to influence events. Whether it is done formally or informally, the planner in the residual planning department might come up with a very different conclusion or recommendation and indicate to the councillors exactly what he or she thinks. That is why I am a little worried about this reference cited by my noble friend on the Front Bench, who said:

“The regulations may make provision about … the investigation of complaints or concerns about designated persons”,


“the circumstances in which, and the extent to which, any advice provided by a designated person to a person making a planning application is binding … on the responsible planning authority”.

In other words, can the Secretary of State say, “I require you”—the local authority—“to dismiss any comments, recommendations or views of your own planning department and to accept the views being expressed by the independent contractor”.? I would worry about that because it would completely overturn the principle on which I understand planning operates within local authorities. As I understand it—but it is 40 years since I was on a council—it is normal for the Secretary of State to interfere only on appeal. That provision suggests to me that the Secretary of State can intervene in circumstances which would not be particularly helpful.

I go back to what I said at the beginning of my comments. I am concerned about what happens in the meeting and in the documents that flow between the contractor, the planning officials and the councillors, and about the conflict that might arise. I suggest that that is where the problem will arise and what will sink the whole project.

5 pm

Lord Borwick (Con): My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 102D. I declare many different property interests, both directly and through companies in which

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I have registered an interest. They comprise land directly held by me and by companies, and also land held under options in Sussex, London, Oxfordshire and Scotland. Many of these companies are in the process of developing land and some have planning applications outstanding. I am also a trustee of many charities with property interests.

I support Clause 145. It will do an enormous amount of good, even as drafted, but I am aware that some objectors have concerns with it. It seems they are worried that a “designated person'” will not only be able to process the application, but will have the delegated authority to actually make the planning decision. That would be concerning. So it may be worthwhile to explicitly state that it is not the Government’s intention to allow a designated person to decide the outcome of an application. The actual decision should be reserved for the democratically elected councillors, all as part of greater localism.

The Minister may say that this is clear enough from the existing drafting of Clause 145, but if so I would ask why so many different people have misunderstood it. My amendment, which is supported by noble Lords from three different parties, would save time in the long term. If there is confusion among objectors and developers now, they will simply waste time by misunderstanding the existing clause.

I respect the opinions of many noble Lords who would prefer that this whole Bill not pass, but if it is to pass, they want it to be as clear as possible. I do want it to pass, but I also want it to be as clear as possible. I therefore want to amend Clause 145 to make it explicitly clear that a designated person shall not have any power to determine a planning application. I beg to move.

Lord True: This is a useful amendment. Perhaps I am tempted to intervene by the rodomontade of my noble friend Lord Deben, who certainly seemed to me an admirable candidate to be a designated person advising on green applications. He would do it better than most, and I look forward to the opportunity that he was extolling.

I also speak as a leader of a blooming local authority which has tried to be creative. I remind my noble friend that my education department is now a social enterprise. I have no problem with privatisation. I do not follow that route at all—my problem with this is that I do not like law made in a hurry. The process here is bad; there is not enough opportunity for consideration.

Lord Borwick: Nine days?

Lord True: No—if the noble Lord had been here earlier, he would have heard that this came in at a very late stage in the Commons and was dealt with quickly, and this was the first opportunity your Lordships have had to discuss it. All I am saying is that that is inappropriate at this time and place.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, is on to a very pertinent point. I am not going to go into all the issues; we have not had long enough to discuss planning fees. Local authorities should be properly funded for performing this important function. Funding other bits of sticking plaster—effectively, in some

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ways, that is what it is—to do that is not going to answer that core problem of under-resourced statutory function.

My problem with this comes down to the point of decision. At the end of the day, that decision must be independent. We have a court system in this country which is full of privatisation. People are advised by private solicitors. Their cases are pleaded by self-employed barristers. There is nothing wrong with private operators. When we get to the point of decision and recommendation, the planning committee, as noble Lords who have attended or been members of planning committees will know, is like a jury in effect, although it has a quasi-judicial effect. Under this provision, one of the parties—the applicant—will very often be a powerful figure who will, in effect, be summing up for the jury. That is what is in the documents here: it is solely for the designated person to make a recommendation to the local planning authority how, in their professional opinion, the application might be termed. So a piece of paper goes to the planning committee with the word “recommended” on it in bold. Under this provision, the private operator, who has a link with one party, is the person who does that summing up to the jury. To my mind, that is the difficulty. I have no problem with private operators being involved, as long as the poor bloomin’ local authority is allowed to properly function in doing what it seeks to do.

I am sorry if I am now in the third minute of my speech. I know that brevity is the soul of wit although sometimes, as shown in parts of the speeches by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, within longiloquence there can also be pearls of wisdom.